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Research Report

Engaging History: The problems & politics of memory in Russia and the Post–Socialist Space

Samuel A. Greene editor
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2010
Pages: 58
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 4-4)

    Notions of the “end of history,” popular as the 20th century drew to a close, have proved mistaken. Not only has political contestation continued over the very meaning of modernity, but the past has returned to the core of the contemporary debate on the future of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Russia is no exception. Questions of memory and historiography inform the internal political process within Russia itself and often drive Russia’s relations with its neighbors. The ability of competing political constituencies – whether within one country or across borders – to accept that histories may be shared...

  2. (pp. 5-12)

    Three times in the course of 100 years, Russia changed the world. The first time, in 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution transformed communism from the “specter haunting Europe” into a system of existing governance and a challenge to the capitalist and liberal democratic systems that were beginning to dominate the West. The second time, in 1945, the Soviet Union played the decisive role in defeating Nazi Germany, ending the fascist threat while simultaneously extending Soviet dominance over half of the European continent. And the third time, in 1991, Russia (as distinct from the USSR) dismantled its empire, abandoned its ideological, political...

  3. (pp. 13-25)

    The politics of history is steadily eroding possibilities for public discussion in Russia itself and between Russia and its neighbors.

    A number of concepts are used to describe the links between professional historiography, collective memory, and politics. The assortment varies from one country to another,⁴ and this in itself could be the topic of a separate study. The terms commonly encountered in Russia are “politicization of history” and “memory politics.” This article, the second part of which discusses the situation in Russia, is an attempt to define the difference between these two concepts. Of course, this kind of delimitation owes...

  4. (pp. 26-36)

    The intensifying efforts to carry out historical policy in Estonia have their roots in an “ontological crisis,” caused in part by the country’s successful accession to the EU and NATO.

    During Estonia’s “singing revolution” in the 1980s, Mart Laar, who subsequently headed the country’s government, used the slogan “Give the people their history back!” This call became an important part of politics in post-restitution Estonia, and there has been plenty of discussion of the matter.38 The start of the new century brought with it an upsurge in historical politics. By this I mean not only that debate on the subject...

  5. (pp. 37-50)

    Ukraine’s historical policy pursued the goal of turning the 1932-33 famine into one of the founding symbols of the national historical myth.

    Since the transition from the “old order” to the era of nation states, history has always played an important part in forming identity, in civic education and, of course, in indoctrination, as well. Although it was not a nation state, the Soviet Union also made active use of history in order to establish ideological conformity. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that history came to play such a key part in the ideological and political battles of...

  6. (pp. 51-53)

    Summary of a seminar in Kazan, Russia, March 5-6, 2010119

    Participating: Alexander Astrov, Yitzhak Brudny, Ludmila Coadă, Alfiya Galyamova, Marat Gibatdinov, Samuel Greene, Rafael Khakimov, Alexei Miller, Jadwiga Rogoża, Andrey Ryabov, Valters Ščerbinskis, and Jutta Scherrer.

    Historical politics has become an increasingly visible phenomenon in public and political life in the post-Soviet countries over recent years. The difficulties in forming and developing new nation-states in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, as well as the difficulties societies have encountered after restoring their national sovereignty, have helped to spark a new wave of interest in modern history in...